It was about three months ago that I had graduated from Epicodus Code School. With nothing more than being self-taught in just a few simple concepts of web design, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I decided to take the challenge. After programming for 9 hours a day 5 days a week for 5 months, I finally landed my first tech job.
What Are Code Schools?
Code schools – also known as coding bootcamps – were created with the intention of helping people land their first programming job in a short amount of time. Instead of having to spend four years obtaining a computer science degree at a university, you can learn the necessary skills to land your first web developer job in just a few short months.
This is great for those who don’t want to pay the incredibly high tuition cost. Furthermore, everything you learn will be practical. No theory, no perquisite classes, and no wasting time. If you’re looking to get a job in the tech industry in a short amount of time and for a much cheaper cost, this can be an path to take.
However, there’s no guarantee. While some schools boast a full refund if you don’t land your first job within 6 months of graduating, the majority of programs aren’t like that. You’re taking a huge financial risk. The average tuition of attending one of these schools hovers around $10,000 with the higher-end ones closer to $20,000.
Not only that, but a huge investment of your time is needed as well. You’ll be spending hours upon hours day after day programming with like-minded peers. You won’t have time to work on the side, let alone think about much else aside from programming. You’ll be left mentally exhausted after 10 or more hours of straight programming, only to wake up again and do the same thing.
Hack Reactor students spend nearly 60 hours a week learning to code for 3 entire months. Some may wonder if they’re really capable of cramming this amount of information in such a short time. The results speak for themselves.
Although these programs are incredibly intense and tiring, that isn’t to say they don’t come without benefit. These schools claim that in just a few months you can land a $60,000+ salary job. If you’re located in the bay area, this figure can be as high as $90,000 if not more.
Coding bootcamps recognize the demand for web developers, and the demand is only going to keep growing. Finally, people who want to learn how to program have an easier way to do so. Although you won’t be getting a university degree, keep in mind that attending college won’t guarantee you a job either.
Before Attending Code School
The thought of attending had been creeping in the back of my mind for years. It was back in 2014 when I was still deciding what my next move in life should be. Located in Taiwan, I was getting tired of teaching English for a living. The pay was great, the food was incredible, but I felt as if my life lacked a sense of purpose.
I browsed the internet for different types of jobs and noticed that I never really considered programming as a career. Curious, I started teaching myself some core concepts. I put up my first blog on WordPress with the help of many online tutorials. I learned what a domain was, how to host a website and also a few simple concepts in web design.
But most importantly, I was enjoying what I was doing. It’s no wonder most software developers love their job. They get paid an incredibly high salary while working on something that’s mentally stimulating. Furthermore, programming has a high instant gratification rate. While it may take a few hours to solve a problem, you’re usually not going to have to wait that long to see if your code worked.
I thought I was making great pace learning how to code on my own, but I wanted more and wanted to be alongside like-minded peers. Looking at programming schools across the United States, I turned down the idea many times in my head due to the incredible high tuition costs.
The cheapest school I could find was around $8,000. Not only were these schools expensive, but there wasn’t a guarantee that I would find work afterwards. Putting the idea on the back burner, I went back to blogging and focusing on my writing.
Applying To App Academy
Closer to 2016 I looked again at the idea of attending code school. I was back in the US by this time, and hundreds of new schools had popped up. App Academy in San Francisco only costs $5,000 up-front and expects you to pay the remaining $13,000 once you land your first job. Furthermore, they have one of the highest placement rates out of any other school in the nation.
In addition to a rigorous interview process, App Academy also requires its applicants to take placement tests, so acceptance is no easy task. Since they don’t require you to pay full tuition upfront, they’re essentially taking a risk on every student they take in. They want to make sure they’re only accepting quality applicants so they can get the remainder of their money back.
Not a coder? Not a problem. App Academy provides you with all of the necessary materials in order to bring you up to speed to pass their admissions test.
What I thought was just 10 – 20 hours of preparation ended up taking me 50 – 60 hours or more. I didn’t really have any programming experience beforehand so my learning curve was quite steep. Anxious to get into a school before I let any more time linger, I decided to rush through the remaining problem sets – a big mistake.
For those of you who don’t know, the admissions process to App Academy is one of the most intensive out there. You have to pass 3 to 4 tests in Ruby followed by a live Skype programming challenge. Their website claims that only 5% of applicants actually make it in.
I Failed The Test
Rushing to learn a new concept probably isn’t the best idea. I failed my first test, but I did well enough to be given a second opportunity. My second test didn’t go so well, and a few days later they sent me a rejection letter via email.
Disappointed and slightly burnt out from all of my efforts, a few days of rest were taken. I wasn’t going to let this get in my way, however. There are plenty of other code schools out there – I just had to look a little harder.
Applying To Epicodus
Browsing across various reddit forums, I went back to check if there were any code school that I happened to missed. A few more hours of searching landed my eyes upon a school in Portland, Oregon called Epicodus. The school had already been running for a few years, so I was quite surprised that I hadn’t run across the name during my initial search.
Not only is the school incredibly close to where I was living, but their tuition prices are one of the most reasonable. For only $3,200 you get five months of intensive programming courses. Be willing to pay a little bit more and you’re guaranteed an internship after graduation.
I figured that if I had already been toying with the idea for nearly two years, I might as well take the leap. I applied, passed their over-the-phone interview, and starting packing my bags for Oregon.
My very first day was filled with anxiety-ridden nerves as I was almost certain that I would be behind my fellow peers. Everyone around me had the intention of becoming an excellent programmer. With this in mind, I naturally assumed that they practiced for hours on end before attending the school.
Little by little I started to notice that everyone was in the exact same place that I was. Not having a single ounce of experience in programming, myself along with my fellow peers were struggling to grasp new concepts. However, once we got past the initial “this is going to be incredibly difficult” phase, somehow the knowledge that we were seeking to obtain slowly solidified into our brains.
Those five months at Epicodus were some of the longest and slowest months of my life. Every day Monday through Friday we programmed from 8 AM to 5 PM. It was only natural that each of us had become filled with exhaustion be the end of the program.
Once graduation hit, we were all excited to start our new internships and be welcomed with open arms into the tech industry. No more school meant that we could finally start working as a real programmer and begin our new careers in a profession that we actually enjoyed.
I was one of the few students that opted out of the internship program. Exhausted and beaten down from the rigorous hours in code school, I felt as if I needed a break or else I would soon come up against the feeling of burnout. I told my adviser that I wanted to delay my internship by two extra months for when the next session started.
Not having to immediately worry about a resume, portfolio or cover letter, I took off to Romania to meet my friend for a couple of months. Ironically enough, taking two months off from programming enhanced my skills rather than worsening them. Sure, I was a bit rusty on a lot of concepts when I got back, but I could tell that things came much more naturally to me. Yet the most important thing was that I was fresh and eager to learn once again.
How I Found Work
Once I returned from Romania, I inquired from my classmates about how their internships were going. Unfortunately, roughly half of them mentioned how terrible the internships were and how they felt as if companies were only taking advantage of free labor (not all of the internships are paid).
After hearing such terrible reviews, I decided to opt out of the internship program to focus on improving my programming skills and look for work later. I could also use this time to focus on projects that I really wanted to work on. When I was at Epicodus, the majority of the time I was limited to specific projects that they wanted.
One day my classmate posted a status on Facebook asking if anyone was looking for contract work in building web pages. I quickly sent him a message asking if he was still looking for anyone. He replied stating that he would pass along my information, but there was no guarantee. At the time, I didn’t think much of it and was almost certain that it wouldn’t result in any type of work.
Less than 24 hours later my classmate messaged me back asking if I could start on Monday. Since the work was contract work and only part-time, I was more than excited to start. I met with his manager, talked for 5 minutes, and started working on Monday.
Why Did My Classmate Choose Me?
During my time at Epicodus, almost every Saturday morning I would attend a Developer Mentorship Meetup. This was to help up-and-coming developers and even senior developers land a tech job. I always came with questions and curiosity, trying to cram even more information into my head and get as much help as possible from those more experienced.
The guy running the Meetup just so happened to be my classmate’s manager. He recalled that I was a frequent attendee of the meetup and knew without a doubt that I would be a perfect candidate for this contract position. While I would like to say it was my amazing coding skills that landed me the job, it was merely due to unintentional networking.
About half of my classmates have already found positions as programmers, and the others are still landing plenty of interviews. I can’t guarantee that you will find work immediately after attending one of these code schools, but it was a move that changed my life for the better.
Going through five months of intensive programming at Epicodus not only landed me my first programming job, but I was also able to develop a strong network of fellow programmers as well as some close friendships.
If you do happen to go to Epicodus Code School and I inspired you to do so, it would be greatly appreciated if you mention my name as a referral when applying. For all other questions, feel free to reach out. Changing career paths is a difficult decision, and I’d love to help you in any way that I can. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!